And A Touch Of Color

Just a few months ago I shared this photo on here, and I was sure proud of it.

Lately, however, I have been on a kick of re-touching photos and meticulously revamping their color scheme.

I didn’t realize how color is lost from the original shot – and now I’m going to fix that!

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The New Age, The Old Age

We used to call it the “food museum.”

It was a tall, oak cabinet that felt like it stood just as tall as the tree it was cut from. Towering over the kitchen with grandeur, even though it’s use was rare at best. Standing alone in the corner, waiting to be called upon.

My grandparents were a unique bunch, at least they were to me. However in retrospect, they probably weren’t much different than anyone of similar age. They probably were all the same, just as I am with most people shutting the door on their twenties. They were probably just the same as their friends, their colleagues, any everyone else they knew. But to me, they were different – and I truly didn’t understand.

Until I did.

No matter the time of year, no matter the time of day, the cabinet was always full – the food museum.

There were bags of flower and spices, mustard, cans of food, utensils, and anything else you could think of. It had a smell of brown sugar that I can still feel in my nose to this day. So much so that any time I bake, I am taken back to that cabinet in a quiet home in rural Ohio. It made me laugh and smile whenever I went through it, though that wasn’t a common task.

I was never sure of why it was there, or why my grandparents kept random items for so long – it just didn’t make sense to me. Why would anyone keep a box of rice for so long? What was the point? Afterall, most of the dates printed on the old cardboard were almost older than me, sometimes they actually were. But I just accepted it, I let it be what it was, and I never really questioned it. Just a quirk of the family, and something we all just let happen. Like a quiet addition to the family.

It wasn’t until years later, when my mom was talking to me about her parents, that I finally understood why it was there – and why it was more important that I’d ever realized. More important than just an old oak cabinet protecting years-old grain.

When you’re a kid, anyone who is older than you seems ancient – cruel, but true. They seem like they have been around forever, seventy years seeming like an eternity to a child – and in reality, it is. But a child doesn’t really realize what those years mean, what was going on during them, and how it affected the very people we think have been around forever. From recession, depression, good times and bad. Our grandparents saw more than we could realize, and part of that memory was sitting right in that kitchen, in that cabinet.

My grandparents grew up in the depression. They had no money, they barely got by, and in such – they barely had any food. Not like today where supermarkets are always packed, restaurants are plenty, and food can be driven right up to your door. Food wasn’t a luxury, it was something you truly treasured. And for my grandparents, that feeling and attitude never went away. They never felt like they could let go of their stash, worrying of the next time the bottom will fall out.

I didn’t realize it until years later, but that cabinet was more than a stash of food – it was a memory. A memory of times when food was scarce, money as well. When they weren’t sure how they were going to make it through the week – it was a lifeline, not a cabinet.

Sure, the years went on, the country improved, the world progressed and life became easier. My grandparents didn’t have to worry about their next meal. They didn’t have to worry about how they were going to get enough money to purchase a loaf of bread to split for the week – they had finally escaped poverty’s clutches. However, the legacy remained – embedding itself deep inside the psyche of my grandparents like a carpenter ant burrowing into a deck. The constant buzz of worry forever present.

What surprised me more as I look back is the fact that, never once, did my grandparents explain to me why it was there, what purpose it had, or why there was food in there so old that the company had already redesigned their logo twice. Maybe they didn’t want me to know. Maybe they were happy that time had passed, that I didn’t have to worry about it anymore, and they were protecting me from something they never wanted to experience, while also not being able to shake it themselves.

But, ironically, today I find myself doing the same thing – I find myself storing my own supplies for a rainy day…or year. Something I never saw myself doing, and I am not alone.

There is an old saying that “history repeats itself,” and it is no more real and present than today. I remember the days earlier this year of waiting in long lines at stores for a pound of beef – wondering if I was going to see barren shelves and angry people, or maybe just nothing at all.

Suddenly, and out of nowhere, I saw my own oak cabinet being built – the anxiety of yesterday returning, and the outcome becoming the same.

I don’t want the world to be one of worry, hoarding, and thinking about our next move constantly. I don’t want to have to explain to my own grandchildren about why I have decades old spices in a closet that reeks of anxiety. I want a world devoid of cabinets and all that they carry.

That oak cabinet is gone, but the memory remains. Hopefully it never has to make a return.

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Man-Made Waterfall

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Photo Restoration: A New Idea

It’s really interesting.

For a few years now, I have been working hard on taking my own photos, creating my own pieces, and trying to capture something new each time I did it. However, recently I have found myself working on, and restoring photos from decades ago – trying to rejuvenate them and bring them new life.

Most of them are not even meant to be artistic, just photos of normal life, whatever that was. Memories from the past that no one ever thought would really be that important. Thought the photos sure ending up being just that.

I love this new project I have started, and I love seeing these come back to life, and maybe bring a smile to the original owners and subjects.

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Summer 2020: The COVID Collection

Parks have been big for me this year, because really – what else is there to do?

I still remember back in early Spring – the stay-at-home orders were fresh, the disease still wasn’t fully known. But I remember sitting on my porch, getting things ready for the summer ahead as we crawled out of a winter, thinking “oh this will pass, there is no way this will last much longer.”

Really, it seemed inconceivable that we would still be in this, and that come Fall, we would still be alone. A summer lost to confusion and to concern, like the world rarely sees.

But the weeks passed, they faded into months. And soon things were left abandoned, popular fishing and meeting spots left empty and closed. Nature took back over, and we watched things decay as we waited for the all-clear. One of which has yet to come.

I took these in a park that normally has plenty of people, all over the place enjoying the summer – but not this summer, a tragically beautiful summer. But now they sit and wait until we can use them again.

Maybe soon.

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Millennials In The Workforce: Dylan’s Story

For a while now, my great friend Matt and I have been working on a podcast we are quite proud of – and today we released a special edition of our show!

Millennials, more than any other generation, have a brutal battle ahead of them as they try to cement and create careers. From having to fend off multiple recessions, world tragedies, and declining pay – they have fought battles that no generation has seen before when it comes to making a living.

I spoke with Dylan Fashbaugh, a young entrepreneur who has a story of unbelievable standing, and he explained his story of being a Millennial in the workforce.

It is not a story you can miss.

P.S. Check out the entire catalog of episodes we have compiled over the years, and tune into Matt’s special edition of the show where he dives into the greatest – and worst – bathrooms in Cleveland.

You won’t be disappointed!

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A Little Bit Of Wonder

I am tired. So very tired.

We all are, and we all want to move on.

But remember the old times. No worries, no arguing.

Just a little bit of sunlight, at the most unusual times.

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What We All Miss: Company

It really is amazing how quickly things can change – and how we can turn a corner we never saw coming.

I was looking through and organizing – as best I could – a slew of photos I had forgotten I had taken. Little slips of time that fell through the cracks and dipped into a drawer of things long-forgotten.

Most of the photos were ones that I wasn’t sure I liked, out of focus and over-exposed. Ones that, really I didn’t think anything of when I took them. They were the throw-aways, and I didn’t think they had a purpose. Until I came across one with a sight that, just recently, seems so odd.

Groups of people together.

On this warm day in San Diego, it was a sight that I still remember. We loved the city, and we loved the seemingly endless beaches that arose from the sands. It was packed, crowded, and jovial. People sitting on their vans, friends snapping selfies, and families gathering for a picnic.

It was nearly impossible to get a photo without anyone in it – something I try to do to avoid having to track down releases. To be totally honest, I was annoyed at the time. Why couldn’t people just stand back so I could get a view?

Oh how ironic irony can really be.

Now, I WISH I could be around people like that again. I WISH we could congregate on the beach, blasting our favorite music as someone gets in the way of my photo. The laughs, the yelling, the company.

When things change for the worse, it seems we will even miss things we once hated.

If only there were people around again so I had to fight for a spot. If only we could hang out together again, and if only we could break this cycle of knowing and not knowing if it’s okay that we brushed against that person at the grocery store.

We’ll get back there again, eventually.

Let’s not take it for granted this time.

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Handling Friendships During A Pandemic – From Someone Who Doesn’t Know the Answer

No matter when I walked to class at Cleveland State, it always seemed to be dark. Whether it was when I was – surprisingly – teaching an intro communication class, or going to my own graduate course, the sunlight just always seemed to be absent.

It was a tough time in my life. The constant paperwork, the meta-theory that – to this day – makes my head spin, and the late-night scribbling with my cohort on our exit thesis. But it was also very rewarding, even if the math brought us to tears at times. It brought out the best in us, we became best-friends, and it made us think.

Looking back, we talked about everything in the communication field. We discussed old theories, we developed new theories, we learned how to manage a public crisis, and we even – which was my personal favorite – studied how to manipulate and control conversations. Every day was something different. And to this day I still think about, and use, a lot of the topics we went over in detail. However there is one theory I never really gave much thought about, one that we probably discussed some time around ten in the evening, when classes were finally letting up.

That was the theory of relationship management.

With all communication theories, there are layers to it. How to do this, how to do that, when to do this, when to do that. However there is a bottom line to it all – and that’s that relationships need work. Whether they are friendships, marriages, or anything in-between – all of them take a modicum of effort, on both parts. It can be as simple as a phone call, or as deep a grand gesture. But there is another part to this theory, and that’s that maybe some relationships aren’t worth that much at all.

COVID-19 has done much more than what a virus typically does, at least in my opinion. It’s brought out the best – and the worst in us. Friends have become enemies, enemies have become worse. But beyond all of the physical effects of the virus, there has been a different type of casualty – and that’s relationships we have with each other.

Albeit exhausting, social media can typically be quite entertaining – on a normal day. 

You can scroll for hours, seeing who is doing what, who went where, and even local drama in your community. Maybe someone drove their car too fast down a residential street and someone wants to complain. Or maybe there was a water-main break, and the citizens want to let their city know how angry they are about it. Social media can bring it all out, the good and the bad. But when a pandemic hits, a whole new animal emerges. 

Within weeks of the pandemic inching its way into our lives, things took a dark turn. Soon the posts of weekend parties turned into posts of anti-this, anti-that – or someone saying how this person did this and on and on. Almost out of nowhere, my most distant friends online – who I frankly forgot about – became conspiracy theorists, experts, and a treasure-trove of anger.

This led me to a serious debate within myself. Do I let these people go from my life, or do I roll with who they are, even if their opinions drive me to the brink.

It may seem like such a simple question – but is it? Should we remove someone from our lives because we are getting sick of what they believe in? Should we cut off a friend, or even family member because of how they are handling things?

It’s a question I struggle with on a daily basis, and one I don’t – and never will – have an answer for.

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t lose friends because of the pandemic. I would be lying to you if I told you people haven’t said to me “why don’t you go cry and write an article about it?” I would be lying to you if I told you that didn’t bother me, just a little.

However at the end of the day, I don’t want to be that person to cut people off – I don’t want to be that person to cast someone away because of their negativity.

But maybe I should be. I’m not sure.

I was always raised to not let things get between friendships. Fights, arguments, disagreements – they can all be worked out, and you can be friends with those you don’t see eye-to-eye with. And to this day I still believe that. Just because we square off at a round table, throwing out our evidence desperately trying to convince one-another, doesn’t mean can’t crack a drink and forget it all.

But at the same time, and maybe it’s just due to my growing older and tired, I don’t want to keep diving into known negativity. I don’t want to have to constantly have to prove myself, and I don’t want to have to pretend that some people are “good” people.

For this reason, I found it best to simply walk away for a moment. There is no need to get worked up about something someone said online…right?

I am not the only only, I can’t be. I have had friends, and even family mention strained relationships, all based around differing opinions on matters. I myself fall into many traps many times, maybe responding to a post when I shouldn’t – trying to call someone out on their errors knowing I will never change their mind. Even if I told them the sky was blue, I would lose the fight.

However in a strange way, I find my circle shrinking, but getting stronger. I have a wife and family that make me the happiest I have ever been, and I have friends I love and can call for anything at any time. These are the people I adore and admire, and ones I know I could get through anything with. I have even seen communities of like-minded strangers grow stronger.

So maybe we’re not “cutting” off friends, and sometimes family, that are tormenting us. Maybe we’re trimming things up, and finding out who really supports us after all. Maybe we need to forget about working out the relationships we carry that hold us down, ones we’re holding onto for no reason at all.

If a relationship, no matter big or small, is right – it can endure anything.

I will never claim to know anything for sure, and I absolutely am not telling anyone to disappear from family or friends who may irk them. But what I am saying is that, again, relationships take work. It takes understanding, it takes reassurance, and – most importantly – it takes empathy.

As hard as it is to think about, there are just some people who won’t ever care. There are people that, no matter what, will die on any hill just to prove themselves “right.” And eventually you’ll have to come up with a plan on how to handle that within yourself.

I struggle everyday with this, and who doesn’t. But what I know is that I will never stop working on the relationships that matter – the ones I know are worth it. Those are the people I will never, for any reason, turn my back on.

I may not agree with you. But if we’re all decent human beings, it won’t matter.

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The Road To Anywhere

It’s been a strange year, that is something that no one will disagree with. From COVID, to murder-hornets, to a asteroid that came flying by. It’s been a year for the record books in more ways than we could ever imagine.

But it’s not all bad.

In a way, with everything closed, it forced us to explore the world around us, and what is right in our backyards. For me personally, that was the Cleveland Metroparks – a place that I have lived close to my entire life, but never really realized its beauty until this year. Until now it was just another park.

I’m not sure if it is my imagination, or if it’s from being trapped in the same four walls for months, but the lighting always seems just perfect this year. It’s almost as if no matter the locale in the parks, the time of day, or the scene – everything just works. If one door closes, or something like that.

Sometimes I like to think about what the world would be like without us. And every once in a while the world shows me.

Even closed roads look beautiful, quiet and calm. You’d never know the world was in turmoil. You’d never know something was off.

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